The Novel Thinking guides help elementary students learn to think analytically and to engage with books they read on more than a cursory level. The series isn't huge (six guides for six novels so far), but the goal isn't to learn about specific literature so much as to learn how to read literature in general, so the available guides should offer most students enough practice that they will start to apply what they've learned on their own and not always need a lesson plan to help them.
How Do These Work?
The guides are designed for students grades 3-6. The number of lessons varies according to the number of chapters in the book being studied, and since there is no suggested time frame you can move through each guide at your own pace. Lessons are typically about four pages long, each with a variety of activities easily spaced out over more than one day, though you will want your kids to complete the work before they forget what they've read.
Activities range from matching to essay questions to crossword puzzles. Vocabulary-building and grammar skills are emphasized, as well as understanding the elements of fiction (context, characters, plot, etc.). Students are frequently asked to paraphrase parts of the story and to draw conclusions from what they've read to reinforce comprehension.
Students are not asked to make moral or ideological judgments. These texts are not from a Christian perspective, so this is a benefit if you're worried about secular worldview elements. All activities and exercises relate directly to the text of the novel being studied. The guides are intended to promote critical analysis and in-depth study of literature, not to indoctrinate kids with a particular viewpoint.
These are good introductions to literature study. They are objective and deal with texts thoroughly, helping students pick out details and understand their significance. Since the guides don't promote a specific worldview, there isn't much critical thinking required on a subjective or philosophical level. These could be a good stepping stone to more in-depth study using Progeny Press or Veritas literature guides.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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